Talking to No One

So that's why she fears this place, Castle thinks. Her hands are clasped in his, and not-so-silent sobs are racking her frame. He leans in to loop his arm around her thin shoulders and her head comes to rest comfortably on his shoulder. He cuddles her against him as best he can, but he doesn't know what else to say. Luckily she doesn't seem to expect him to say anything more.

He doesn't know how much time passes before she sniffles and retracts from him, breaking all contact but that of his thumb tracing patterns on the back of her hand and his fingers lightly brushing the back of her neck. The look she gives him is so…trusting, he can't help but feel aglow when he sees it.

"Kate, there's something I have to tell you," he says softly, staring down at the bedcovers. She doesn't reply, but he can imagine her stare boring into him like a laser beam, slowly eating through his shirt and burning his skin. "It's about your shooter and your mom's murder. A man contacted me about it, said that Montgomery had given him a file that he was using in a deal to keep you alive. I was supposed to keep you from investigating your mom's case." He waits for the cry of outrage, the 'how could you,' but it doesn't come. Only silence. "…Kate?"

He chances a look up, ready for anything. A slap across the face. A 'goodbye.' Though it's insanely hopeful to the point of delusion, a 'you shouldn't have done that, but I love you anyways.' But no—her eyes are closed. She's asleep.

Castle could scream in frustration. She hadn't heard anything he had said, and who knows when he will get the courage to admit that to her again? It could have been clean slates, for both of them. He could've looked to their future without this big cloud hanging over his head, reminding him that the hardest trials their relationship would ever have to go through were yet to come. But no, the universe must really hate him right now, to be so cruel.

There's nothing to do but wait until Kate wakes up, and as he predicted all his courage has fled by the time she does so. The "Hey," she gives him upon opening her eyes and seeing him still there is so perky and happy that he knows she doesn't remember a thing he said about Smith before she fell asleep. Before he can fully master the mixture of guilt, frustration, and timidity churning in his belly, there's a quiet knock on the door, and an African-American man steps inside. It takes Castle a few heartbeats to place him as Dr. Burke from the picture Kate had showed him on her computer back at the cabin.

"I hope I'm not interrupting," the man says. Kate scrunches up her body to pull herself into more of a sitting position.

"No, come in," she replies. Her genuine surprise at his presence is written all over her face.

"I was at the hospital visiting a bedridden patient of mine when I heard you were admitted," Burke explains. "I know your appointment's next week, but I had an extra hour and thought you might want to talk."

"Um, yeah, of course," Kate says. She looks at Castle. "Could you…give us the room?"

After a momentary twinge at being kicked out for this, Castle smiles and stands from his stool. He nods in a friendly manner to the psychiatrist as he exits into the hospital corridor. A few wrong turns later, he finds himself in the hospital waiting room standing in front of one of the many vending machines. An hour's not enough time to visit Alexis, but it is enough to satiate the pit of hunger that's been growing in his stomach ever since Kate fell asleep. Maybe he'll get some editing—well, with Gina as his publisher it's less like editing and more just following directions—done too.

Kate watches as Dr. Burke takes the empty seat Castle previously occupied by her bed, unsure of what to say. After studying her for half a second, the psychiatrist initiates the conversation himself. "So, Kate, I see you've decided to move back to the city."

"Yes," she confirms. "We've been back for a couple days now. But we've been living at Castle's loft, not my apartment."

"Why?" She doesn't get the reasoning behind this line of questioning, unless Dr. Burke can detect the residual fear stemming from her ordeal at the precinct.

"Well…" Kate pauses, choosing how much to say. "Castle's daughter likes to have him there." He waits. "And it feels safer than my own apartment." She anticipates his next "Why?" and just explains. "On our first day back our friends invited us out to lunch and we met them at the precinct, except there was a situation and a man took a hostage using a gun right in front of me. We got roped into the case, and an old friend from the FBI worked with us. During the time we had previously worked together, my old apartment exploded with me in it, so… After seeing her again, I didn't really want to go home."

Dr. Burke looks mildly impressed. Kate guesses it's not every day that he hears that one of his patient's homes was blown up while she was in the shower. "That was very self-conscientious of you, Kate. Tell me more about the man and the hostage. How did you react to that?"

She thinks back. "I couldn't stop staring at the gun. I was shaking, gasping for breath."

"What about protection?" At her confused look, he clarifies, "In that moment, did you try to do anything to protect yourself? Scream, to alert others to your situation? Hide? Beg him not to shoot?"

Kate can't help but feel a little pride in herself. Never in a million years would she have thought of begging for her own life in that situation. "My hand did go to where my holster should be, but obviously I didn't have my weapon on me."

Again with the vaguely impressed. "That's a cop instinct you've retained, Kate. That's a good sign for an easier transition back to your job. What about alerting others to your predicament?"

"Castle came in right after, and I told him about a book he hasn't written. I hoped he would realize something was off and warn the others, and he did."

"You showed extraordinary presence of mind," Burke muses. Out of anyone else's mouth it would have sounded like a compliment, but out of Burke's it's just a fact. "What do you think allowed you to 'keep your wits about you,' if you will, in that scenario?"

"I'm not quite sure," Kate frowns. "I guess because I was at the precinct, it wasn't entirely unexpected. I've been trained for that; I've been in that position before."

"Do you think it also could have been the other life in danger, the life of the hostage? Do you think that played a role at all?"

"I…I don't think so," Kate's face falls slightly. "I don't even think she registered in my mind until after." Does that make me a bad person? she wonders. The gun hadn't even been pointed at Kate.

Burke seems more than content to move past that point. "In this case, my advice to you from our first session would not have been applicable. I was not expecting you to come face to face with a criminal with a gun so soon. Further encounters such as that might increase the trauma, so I would advise against returning to the precinct until you are about ready for reexaminations."

"Can't anyway," Kate tells him. "Gates banned me. But your suggestion about concentrating on who was holding the gun did I did try as I was walking into the precinct. I tried to convince myself that these were the good guys, my people, and that I had no need to fear them despite the guns I saw. There weren't as many out and about as usual—Espo's doing, probably—but I still caught glimpses."

"And did you find it useful?"

"Somewhat," Kate replies honestly. "With my colleagues, yes, definitely, although I realized later they weren't even carrying. I've trusted them to watch my back for years, so I guess it makes sense. With the uniforms and other detectives…" She sighs. "It's a work in progress. I didn't have a flashback, so that much was good."

Burke continues to ask her questions over the next half hour: about her experiences of being back in a metropolitan area, about the dynamic between her Castle, and Alexis, and about her friends in the precinct and Lanie at the morgue. Kate in turn tells him about Shaw, whose advice he agrees with completely with the stipulation that she, again, keep in mind that PTSD was different for everybody. He also informs her that she has the best support network of any of the patients he's ever seen, and not to discount all that they can do for her. She promises she won't, and when the time comes for him to leave, she thanks him sincerely, noting to herself how he seems to have the same calming, relaxing effect on her as Castle does, just in a different manner.

Her writer returns a few minutes later, and the rest of the day is spent talking and occasionally laughing and is filled with casual touches that seem to have become normal during her interlude here. Before she knows it, the night has passed as well and Dr. Kovaks s clearing her to leave. In a wheelchair, of course—hospital policy.

Castle grins at her, offering her his hand to help her pull herself up and to the edge of the bed. "Ready to go home?"

"Absolutely," she smiles back at him. It doesn't even occur to her to contest Castle's use of the word 'home' in reference to the loft. It just feels right.

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